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Presenting Projects Publicly as Summative Assessment

Creating opportunities for students to make their learning public can raise the stakes and broaden a course's horizons. In this video, one of Eric Mazur’s students and his teaching assistant introduce how they use a public project fair as the primary summative assessment in the class. At the fair, students demonstrate how their projects work to external judges and then answer questions about the design process and related class concepts. The result is an engaged public and motivated, proud students.

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Tracking the Learning Process Using Design Notebooks

Given the messiness of the design process, it’s important for students to be able to track their own learning while they engage in projects. In this video, Eric Mazur outlines how he uses design notebooks in his class in which students document all elements of their project- and team-building experience. Students submit design notebooks with their completed projects and are graded for their completeness and quality of reflections. These notebooks help reinforce the principles of iterative development that underpin project-based learning and further emphasize the...

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Creating Assessments with Individual and Collaborative Components

We all know the image: Stressed, fearful students trickle into a silent exam hall, all tired from cramming from the night before. But as Eric Mazur notes, stress is not conducive to deep and meaningful learning. In fact, the stress of exam culture often means that students only study for tests and then forget what they learned soon after. To flip this script, Mazur and his teaching team have instituted two stage exams. In the first stage, students work individually; but in the second stage, they share answers with each other, discussing and debating until they find the right answer...

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Using Peer Instruction to Improve Student Learning

Peer instruction discussions are an efficient and student-centered way to address common misconceptions about  course concepts. By getting students to individually answer class questions and then getting those with different answers to talk to one another, you can encourage students to assess each others’ ideas and move closer towards the correct answer. In this video, Eric Mazur describes how he leverages peer instruction using in-class polling technology. He notes how even after a short discussion amongst peers, students can go from around 50 percent ...

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Devaluing the Right Answer

Most instructors experience students asking them if they have the right answer or just asking for the right answer outright. However, as Eric Mazur and his teaching team in this video acknowledge, simply giving students the right answer can “sabotage” problem-based learning. This is because what matters in problem-based learning is not the answer so much as the process of arriving at an answer. Devaluing the right answer is one way for instructors to make this principle of teaching clear in their classrooms.

Using Team Contracts and Peer Feedback to Foster Team Building

Many students balk at the idea of working in teams, particularly when they don’t know who the other students are. Students may be concerned others won’t pull their weight or that the output may not meet expectations. Given this, it is important for instructors to be intentional in fostering team-building experiences and peer-accountability processes. Doing so, instructors can ensure that teams get off on the right foot and persist productively throughout the class. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team give examples of how they do this by discussing the use of reflection, team...

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Designing Project Teams that Work

Teams are most productive and conducive to learning when students with complementary skills, knowledge, and dispositions work together. That said, students generally don’t enter classrooms already sorted in these diverse ways. Often they group together based on achievement and engagement or based on background characteristics. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team explain how and why they intentionally design heterogeneous teams. By using pre-class surveys and student demographic data, they find ways to assign students to teams in ways that play to each member’s strengths and...

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Designing Authentic Projects

Effective projects are carefully designed in order to deepen and broaden students’ understanding of course concepts by applying them to real-world challenges. The point is to demonstrate to students how what they’re learning in the course -- information that may see fairly dry in the abstract -- becomes  extremely important when applied to everyday problems. In this video, Eric Mazur and his teaching team underscore the value of using projects to give learning a deeper meaning. They emphasize how learning is much more memorable when students get a chance to be hands-on and enact...

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Using Team-Based Learning to Prepare Students for the Real World

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the future of work will become increasingly collaborative. As he explains in this video, this is what underpins Eric Mazur’s approach to team-based learning: a belief that instructors need to help students learn how to work together because this is how they will succeed once they leave our classrooms. 

Using Project-Based Learning to Engage Students

In contrast to traditional lecture-based courses, using projects in the classroom pushes students to actively apply what they have learned. In AP50: Physics as a Foundation for Science and Engineering, instructors put aside textbooks and lectures, challenging students instead to construct a machine that meets a real world challenge. Once students are engaged, instructors then begin to make textbook connections, pointing out how fundamental class concepts can enhance the quality of students’ project. This is what Eric Mazur calls the “Trojan Horse” of learning.

Team-Based Learning

In classes that utilize a Team-Based Learning approach, students grapple with challenging problems that they can only solve by working together to learn and apply key class concepts. To achieve this, teams must be intentionally designed, and class norms and expectations for a safe and welcoming learning environment must be strongly reinforced. When this happens, students can learn from and with each other in ways that do not just facilitate content mastery but also foster social skills for future success in an increasingly collaborative world. 

How do...

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Project-Based Learning

To develop deep conceptual understanding of abstract concepts, particularly in the sciences, students need to do more than just read textbooks or listen in lecture halls. They need to find ways to actively develop their understanding, observe and reflect on how these concepts introduced in class actually operate in the real world. In classes that utilize a Project-Based Learning approach, students try to solve challenging everyday problems by learning about and applying key class concepts. In a well-designed problem, students are meaningfully engaged in an authentic social...

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Asking and Answering Questions to Deepen Student Understanding

Simply because one student has offered a correct answer does not mean other students are on the same page. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein discusses how he responds to student questions and responses in a way that invites the whole class into the conversation. “Tell me more about that,” is one of his go-to responses to gently probe students’ understanding and demystify their thought process for other learners in the room. “If they tell me the right answer, I don’t always validate it,” Schwartzstein explains, “because I’ll still turn to someone else and say...

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Debriefing the Emotional Experience of the Simulation

When the simulation has formally ended, this does not mean the learning is over. Debriefing the simulation experience with students is a critical component of achieving instructors’ learning objectives. More intense than a paper case, role plays and simulations also stir emotions and raise stress levels among participants. Given this, taking time to debrief the anxieties and emotions simulations raise is imperative. In this video, Richard Schwartzstein, Jeffrey William, and Homeostasis I students discuss the importance of acknowledging the emotional component of the...

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Defining Strategic Roles for Simulation Facilitators

As an expert in one’s field, it can be challenging for instructors to move to the periphery of the classroom and let students take the lead. Not doing so, however, can impede students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Fortunately, acting as a facilitator in simulations does not necessarily mean instructors stand idly by. In this video, Jeffrey William discusses how instructors in Homeostasis I find ways to guide students’ thinking without overpowering them by posing questions, issuing subtle hints, and purposefully walking away. Considering the role of...

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